James 'Hairbear' Goodband

1998-2018

A week before Christmas 2018, I experienced the saddest moment of a lifetime associated with cricket. At just 20 years of age, we had lost one of our own, James ‘Hairbear’ Goodband.


I first encountered James when helping out coaching the juniors. He would have been 11 then and there was no doubt which one of the kids was ‘Hairbear’. A flurry of arms and legs, but mostly hair, tearing round the outfield with a cricket bat in one hand a cricket ball in the other and a football at his feet. But the thing you remembered most was the ear to ear grin. He was an exercise in seemingly perpetual motion. Sometimes he listened to you, sometimes he was just unstoppable in what he was doing, but always you finished a session laughing and joking with him.

It was a couple of years later that I gave him a lift up to a first aid course that was being put on for junior coaches in Aylesbury. He couldn’t have been more than 14, but with no more youth cricket for his age group, he had transitioned over to helping with the younger kids and so wanted to do the necessary courses to allow him to do this. What surprised me the most was that he got into the car and for 40 minutes in each direction, we talked. Not the normal type of talk you have with a 14 year old you don’t know that well where you strive to ask questions that get monosyllabic answers, but a proper and interesting conversation.

It was the first of many as I would often pick him up if we were playing in the same team, living just down the road. By 18, he had amassed all the organizational skills that come with that age. I collected him from work (5 mins from his house) one day at 12.30, and he dropped something into the boot of the car before getting in. When we arrived at the ground (20 mins from his house) and I opened the boot, he pulled out his bat and nothing else. ‘Where’s the rest of your kit?’, ‘My mum’s bringing it up’, ‘Isn’t your mum out all day with Sophie?’, ‘Oh yeah. Can you give me a lift to my house?’.

We started with 9 that day. But as he reminded me in the bar later with his trademark grin, ‘we won, so it’s all good.’

Kit was a recurring theme. For the game at Stoke Green in the 2018 Village Knock Out, James had left his kit bag, with everything in it at our club. Having persuaded Rolfie to pick it up for him to save him going in the wrong direction, he assured him that it was in the red bag under the bench in the changing room. When Rolfie arrived and presented said bag, The Bear thanked him profusely and then apologized because he meant the green bag. ‘Anyone got any spare stuff?’

He played in kit belonging to 5 different people that day, but we got the game in, so it was all good.

We teased him a lot, because we’re a sports team and that’s what you do with the kids you care about and I know that he knew that that was why we did it, because we cared about him. He was always quick to laugh at himself, but never slow to initiate a prank elsewhere. Driving back from some far flung ground in Oxfordshire, I had a car full of youth. Stuart was in the front and James and Hamzah were in the back, with Shaun in the middle seat. Shaun started to nod off, and once he was properly asleep, James tapped me on the shoulder and suggested we slap the brakes on. I declined out of a sense of responsibility, but he wasn’t letting it go, so half way up Chinnor Hill, having checked every which way that there were no other vehicles around, I slowed down gently to 30, checked that everyone was wearing their seat belt. counted down from 3 and as I hit 1, slammed on the anchors as the other 3 boys yelled.

Shaun nearly went through the roof of the car in fright as the other 3 dissolved in fits of laughter.

A week later, Shaun was still berating us all and James was still giggling.

BRCC was an important place for James. We spent many post match Saturday evenings having a drink and talking about nothing that was important. But if the party got going, he was right in there. Never shy of a karaoke microphone, we once delivered what was unquestionably the worst ever version of My Generation together. When I pointed out the irony of an 18 year old and a 55 year old duetting to that particular song, he looked at me, smiled, and said “Naaaah”

He wasn’t just the joker in the pack though, he was a very decent cricketer who was only going to get better. He made his first league 50 for the 2s aged just 15, and won a couple of games for the 1s with significant innings down the order. He was progressing as a bowler and despite a laconic running style, was a very effective fielder. The last time I saw James, I was sat outside The Boot at the club dinner with him and Shaun, discussing the 2019 season. I was trying to convince him that he was a 1st team player and that was how he should think of himself. His response was that the three of us were the core of the 2s and that was how he liked it. Who he was with was always more important to him than where he was. 

The stump to stump walk and the clubhouse renovations that have been done in his name are fitting tributes to the memory of a boy and a young man who was known and loved by every section of the club, whether as a junior, a coach or a team mate. We were blessed to have known him, albeit for too short a time, and as the terrible weight of sadness that surrounds his passing starts to dissipate, as it surely will, we will be left with bitter sweet memories of a smiling boy that the world is poorer without.

Almost all the 20 year olds I know are either friends of my kids or kids of my friends.

James was my friend.

For as long as I am able to walk out on a cricket field, I will miss him.